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Saving at Samotlor: the Unique Field Keeps Fighting for Survival

This is an abridged version. The full text is avaiable to subscribers to The Russian Energy weekly.

Despite 43 years of extensive production, the giant Samotlor field is still on stream. TNK-BP managers are convinced that it will go on all the way till depletion reaches 80% making it eligible for tax reductions. To keep the work going, the operator will have to save on everything.

The Secret of Longevity

The Samotlor field is in the final stage of its life cycle. In January its cumulative oil production reached 2.6 bln t and remaining recoverable reserves in categories C1+C2 were estimated to total 720 mln t. Last year the field yielded 24.6 mln t of oil, according to information of the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous District’s administration.

Experts of Samotlorneftegaz predict that the field will be 80% depleted in 2019 (today the depletion rate is estimated at 78.3%). It would justify a nearly 5% reduction of the mineral extraction tax in the first year after that, and a growing reduction rate after that. Before receiving this benefit, the operator, a subsidiary of TKBP, is determined to follow a strict economy program to keep Samotlor profitable as long as possible.

Samotlorneftegaz has long ago been jokingly recognized in the industry as ‘a water company’. Its wells produce a fluid with less than 6% of oil in it. Flooding in even the best producing horizon of the field, AB1(1-2), which contains 36% of remaining reserves, has reached 84.3%. The horizon’s low permeability had saved in in the Soviet era from vandalizing by speedy development. Only in 1996 a cluster of 12 horizontal wells was built to tap this horizon; and hydrofracturing was performed at a later stage. This is where the operator is focusing on. Secondary methods of oil recovery (controlled flooding, micro-cementing, selective infusion of polymer solutions, etc. in addition to hydrofracturing) are expected to decrease the production decline of Samotlor from the current 7% to just 1% a year by 2016.

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